Facebook friends scam – real or fake?
From the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia:
Plenty of people catch up with friends on social media or randomly surf the web. And so do scammers. They earn victims’ trust by pretending to be someone they already know. How? By sending out a message or two with a great new cure for COVID-19, or a fundraising request, or perhaps a discount on some sought-after items such as toilet paper, face masks and sanitizers.
How the Scam Works
While scrolling through Facebook, a message pops up in Facebook Messenger. It’s your friend, family member, or neighbor. At least it “looks” like them because the profile picture matches. From here, the conversation goes one of two ways. In one version, your “friend” tells you about the latest cure, prevention tactic against the coronavirus, or the most awesome deal they found on masks. All you must do is select a link, share the good news or simply respond to the message. In some cases, perhaps you want to take part in the offer and are ready to pay a processing fee and tax. Stop and think: Would your real friend pass along this type of information?
In another version, the “friend” claims to be raising money for a charity to support emergency personnel, a food bank or some other organization that has really been hit hard by the pandemic or a natural disaster like a flood, ice storm, or tornado. They’ll push for a donation The message appears to be coming from someone you know and trust. Or is it?
A third version is circulating where the [friend] believes their account has been ‘hacked’ and to “friend” them on a new request. Turns out, they were not hacked at all. The profile is publicly visible and copied by a cyber thief who then creates a new profile and is now sending out new friend requests to a bogus account that looks like your friend.
BBB warns everyone before responding to such a request to check that the Facebook profile image is from who it says it is. Or, go the extra step and call, text or email the friend to see if they really did send it to you.
How to Protect Yourself from Facebook Scams
- Be wary of online messages. A person may be trustworthy in real life, but online accounts can be hacked, and sometimes friends share things without checking them out first. Take a closer look. Go to Give.org to verify a charity.
- Do some research. Go to BBB.org/scamtracker to see if the online website that’s selling masks (or whatever product) is truly legitimate. If you can’t find the website, it’s most likely a fake. If you can find the website, look for contact information (no contact info is a red flag).
- Press for details. Ask strategic questions without giving any personal information to confirm you are actually talking to someone you know. If your “friend” can’t give you straight answers, leave the conversation, block them, and then change your Facebook settings as well as your password.
- Report suspicious activity to Facebook. You can report scammers to Facebook to better help protect your real friends and family from a scam. You can reduce the risk of having your profile impersonated by tightening up your privacy settings and hiding your Friends list. Do a “Privacy Checkup” by clicking on the question mark at the top of your Facebook home page.
For More Information
To learn more about avoiding scams, read BBB’s article 10 Steps to Avoid Scams. To learn about online charity fundraising, check out these tips on Give.org. Also, see Give.org’s Giving Guidance & Tips.
About BBB: BBB serving Central Virginia serves Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, scam warnings, consumer and business education, and charity review.